MERGING Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch

MERGING Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch into one city-sized local authority could save the public large amounts of money, it is claimed.

Uniting the Conurbation – an independent campaign to create one city along Poole Bay – has produced a discussion paper setting out the benefits of the idea.

The campaign brings together business and political figures and reaches across parties.

It is fronted by two former leaders of Bournemouth council – Liberal Democrat Douglas Eyre and Conservative David Trenchard.

Mr Eyre said the area was not “punching our weight as a large conurbation”.

“Our objective is to stimulate practical debate based on realities rather than emotion,” he said.

A discussion paper by John Probert, chairman of Poole-based Wyvern Cargo, compares the three towns with Bristol, which has a similar size of population and almost identical tax revenues.

Bristol has 69 councillors compared with 120 in the conurbation – and cutting councillor numbers locally to Bristol levels would save £300,000 a year, he claims.

The three local towns have 43.5 highly paid strategic directors and service unit heads, compared with just six in Bristol, Mr Probert says.

“Bristol’s may be paid a little more than ours and understandably so given the breadth of their responsibilities but potential savings at that level alone could amount to well over £3million – although some of that might be offset by similar jobs at lower levels in the pay scale,” he said.

Mr Eyre said younger people in particular would see the sense in merging the councils.

“The time is right for this debate to happen,” he said.”

“The younger generation don't see the boundaries. They look at the conurbation. These boundaries seem to be for administrative reasons.”

Mr Trenchard said it was wrong that the councils duplicated services – for example, having three different licensing systems for taxis in neighbouring towns.

“Imagine what it would be like in London if every borough did their own taxi licensing separately,” he said.

He suggested the city authority could be named after Poole Bay, which would help allay fears that it amounted to a takeover by Bournemouth of its neighbours.

Number of councillors Bristol: 69 Bournemouth/Christchurch/ Poole: 120
Chief executives: Bristol: 1 Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole: 2.5 (one shared between Christchurch and East Dorset)
Council salaries exceeding £50,000: Bristol: 131 Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole: 178
Strategic directors and service heads: Bristol: 6 Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole: 43.5
Average band D council tax: Bristol: £501 Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole: £577
Source: Discussion paper by John Probert
Bournemouth Echo

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